I would like to introduce you to Sameera Vanekar, an accomplished professional with extensive experience in Marketing. She is an exceptional example of someone who is not an IITian or IIM graduate yet has established herself as an inspiration for many.
Sameera’s optimization for learning and her inbuilt passion has led her to make visible impacts on her customers’ life through Pathfix – Simplifying integrations for SaaS platforms globally.
Let’s know Sameera in detail in this interview and witness her roller coaster journey.
YC – Sameera, Welcome to the Yellow Chapter. It’s great to have you here. Our goal today is to understand better who you are as a person, your life experiences, and your choices and learn more about PathFix.
Sameera: I was born and raised in Mumbai, India, with my two sisters. My parents owned an HR recruitment firm. I had the freedom to choose my career path. My family moved to Bangalore when I was a teenager.
My father passed away when I was 18, and my mother became the pillar of support for the family. As a family, we are incredibly close and do almost everything together.
My older sister, Seema Vanekar, is the Business head of an IT Company and runs their entire contract staffing business out of their Bangalore office. My younger sister, Aziza Vanekar, is a homemaker and lives in Zurich with her husband and son.
While completing my Bachelor’s degree in Commerce, I began working early in my career. Despite not pursuing postgraduate studies, I gained skills through hands-on experience and continued learning throughout my professional journey.
@ With my sisters
YC- Throughout your career, you’ve held a variety of jobs. What influenced your decision to move on to a new position? And based on your experience, what advice would you give to others looking to make a career move?
Sameera: 1. Prioritizing Learning and Personal Growth – The decision to switch jobs is a personal one that is based on an individual’s growth and learning needs.
Based on my experience, I decided to switch jobs, usually when I felt I had learned everything needed in my current role and was ready for new challenges. Despite coming from a middle-class background, I have always believed that learning is more important than salary. I believe that if you are the best at your work, money will eventually follow.
2. Clear Objectives and Growth Goals – I always asked myself what I could learn from each role and whether it would benefit my eventual goal of making a difference in my customers’ lives. Therefore, I do not recommend jumping from job to job without a clear objective.
My objective was always clear – to learn – and as I did not have the means to pursue formal higher education, switching jobs was a way for me to do it.
YC- Could you tell me about your professional roadmap and learning associated?
Sameera: Yeah, sure.
2000’s: BPO Executive @ Manipal Infotech
I worked in the BPO industry for over a year before moving to HP. The most significant learning from my first job was the importance of teamwork, + I made lasting friendships. I also had a brief stint at IBM, where I worked in procurement, buying and selling goods and services within the organization.
2006 – 2008: Tech Lead @ HP
I have always been fascinated by the technology industry, especially hardware. Consequently, I pursued a career in this field and joined HP as a Senior Supervisor for hardware support. My primary objective was to gain an in-depth understanding of how laptops and desktops function. At first, I dealt with customer support, and later, I was responsible for enterprise hardware support.
I found this job incredibly engaging as it allowed me to disassemble and reassemble laptops, satisfying my curiosity about how they work.
2008 – 2011: Project Manager – Media Research @ Manthan Services
During my six years of professional experience, I worked for large organizations like IBM, HP, and Dell. However, I was keenly interested in exploring the startup world, leading me to join Manthan Services.
At Manthan, I led the operation team for their media division, where I managed content creation and curation for global firms.
In the latter part of my tenure at Manthan, I started exploring marketing, where I learned about product pitching, positioning, and messaging. I was responsible for ensuring effective process management to maximize productivity while reducing costs. I decided to move on.
2011 – 2012 – Sr. Marketing Manager @ Probe Equity Research
As the head of marketing and sales initiatives at Probe, I was responsible for structuring and managing effective marketing strategies and programs. My primary objective was to build brand awareness and drive new client acquisition through targeted marketing campaigns.
My role at Probe was instrumental in driving the company’s growth by effectively positioning our services in the market and generating new business opportunities.
However, I aspired to dive deeper into a marketing role, which led me to pursue new opportunities.
2012 – 2014 – Head of Marketing @ Scripbox – Investment management company
As a part of Scripbox’s initial startup team, I joined the company as the sole marketing professional. My role was all-encompassing and involved developing the company’s branding, positioning, and messaging and choosing the logo, name, and colour schemes. I was responsible for every aspect of marketing at Scripbox.
1. Taking accountability for all leads and conversions across multiple channels, including PPC campaigns, direct marketing, and email marketing. Through this experience, I gained extensive insight and knowledge in this domain.
2. Drive revenue growth – Developing the ability to deliver results by creating and executing effective marketing strategies that increased the company’s brand visibility and drove revenue growth.
3. Developing Marketing Skills and Driving Business Growth – Building a track record of successfully executing marketing initiatives that attracted and retained new customers. My time at Scripbox allowed me to develop my skills and gain valuable experience in driving business growth.
4. Addressing the Challenge of Building Customer Trust – I worked closely with Atul Shinghal, co-founder and CEO of Scripbox, and found building customer trust challenging. We tailored our approach to each business and tested different methods for product-market fit. Scripbox prioritized transparency to build customer trust, which remains critical for the company’s success.
2014 – 2020 – Co-Founder @ CollateBox Inc – An online service for sharing, updating and organizing your growing spreadsheet records online with other team members.
Ralph Vaz founded Collatebox; he is my current co-founder at Pathfix. I joined as the CMO to oversee the marketing efforts, build out marketing activities, and reach out to customers.
Collatebox shifted from a database approach to the BOT Artificial Intelligence (AI) Machine Learning (ML) space and launched Acebot, a chatbot solution on Slack. The product gained popularity with around 20,000 users on the Slack network.
However, we struggled with monetization as we didn’t want to offer a forever-free solution and were unsure how to price the solution. The company decided to wrap things up by mid-2019 instead of pursuing low monetization and potentially compromising their values.
@ with Ralph
YC- Can you talk about typical SaaS numbers for Pathfix?
Problem statement – During our time building software solutions, we realized for a platform to grow, it needs a cohesive and integrated solution that could communicate effectively with other platforms. Integrations were going to be key.
Solution – An integration platform that enables SaaS companies to build and manage integrations within their platforms faster – Pathfix.
TAM – Pathfix focuses on two key markets: SaaS companies looking to add integrations to their platform and the growing community of no-code builders building on platforms like Bubble.io and Adalo.com. As a no-code solution, Pathfix fits perfectly into this market. The current market size for the no-code industry alone is estimated to be around $68 billion by 2028.
ICP – Pathfix is a dev tool that targets SaaS creators seeking to build integrations within their platforms. As an illustration, if a SaaS platform such as Calendly intends to provide its customers with the option to link their Google, Microsoft, or Office calendars, Pathfix manages the entire integration process.
Users – At present, our user base stands at approximately 10,000. Of this number, 80% comprise free users, while the remaining 20% are paying customers who avail of our services.
Markets – Pathfix caters primarily to a global market, with the United States being its primary market. The EU region, Australia, and India follow suit as the subsequent markets in terms of importance.
Churn – Pathfix has a low churn rate of around 1%, primarily because we handle the complex integration process for our customers.
Once the integrations are implemented, customers no longer have to worry about it, making it a cost-effective solution. Native integration development can take several months, but with Pathfix, users can do it within a day. This speed and cost-effectiveness often lead to a build versus buy conversation for customers, with Pathfix almost always coming up on the top.
Competition – Pathfix, as a global platform, has two products – OAuth and API Automation. While it competes with international players like Workato, Tray.io, and Paragon. It appears to be the only player in the Indian market.
Team size – Ralph, the tech co-founder and CEO of Pathfix, has an impressive track record of building about 20 different products throughout his career. As a seasoned CMO, I have contributed to at least three products. Our partnership as CTO and CMO has been exceptional for Pathfix.
The company collaborates with consultants on a need basis. We also have a company that takes care of our administrative tasks, keeping us extremely lean.
Target – Pathfix is setting its sights high, intending to triple its existing user base in the next six months. Furthermore, the company is working towards a 10x increase in its user base by the end of this year.
Funding – We are currently bootstrapped and revenue positive. We are seeing significant growth with our enterprise clients. While we do not anticipate the need for funding soon, we may consider it a future option in the next few years.
YC: As you have closely observed the marketing journey of Scripbox, CollateBox, and now Pathfix, what advice would you like to offer fellow entrepreneurs?
Sameera: In our experience, experimentation is crucial in identifying the most effective marketing channels. We believe the essential ingredients for success are :
1. Content creation: It is crucial to invest time and effort into creating valuable content that can be shared across various platforms, such as blogs, videos, and substantial documentation. This helps in increasing brand awareness and attracting potential customers.
2. Community building: Engaging with the community and speaking to developers can help them understand their pain points and build a relationship with them. Assisting wherever possible can also help in gaining their trust and loyalty.
3. Support-first: At Pathfix, we pride ourselves on providing our customers with the best support we can, which has resulted in high customer satisfaction. We are always willing to go the extra mile and assist customers in any way possible, even if it is not directly related to our product. This has helped build a loyal customer base and resulted in referrals.
YC: What were the strategies used by Pathfix to acquire its first five customers?
Sameera: We acquired our first customers through launching on Product Hunt and organic search. Instead of waiting for the MVP to reach a specific stage, we launched it early. Although we experimented with ads, we found that they could have been more effective and marketing to developers through ads can be challenging.
We also learned that having some content in place before launching is beneficial as it allows for SEO activities to begin in advance.
YC: Could you please share some marketing tips you have learned during your journey with Pathfix that could benefit others?
Sameera: Five Marketing Tips Based on my journey:
1. Customize your Marketing Strategy: It is crucial to recognize that what works for one startup may not work for another. Customizing your marketing strategies to meet your startup’s unique needs is essential.
2. Experimentation: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different channels to find the ones that work best for your company. Just because a particular channel didn’t work for someone else doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Keep running experiments.
3. Metrics Tracking: Defining metrics for success and closely tracking them is crucial to evaluate the effectiveness of a marketing channel. Metrics such as engagement, click-through, and conversion rates are essential for identifying the most effective channels.
4. Multiple Channels: Try multiple channels to find the best fit for your company. Experimenting with different channels can help you discover the most effective ones for your business.
5. Email Marketing: Email marketing is a potent tool for engaging with users and should be addressed. Email marketing isn’t just outbound; you can run an automated cycle of reaching your customers with tips, tricks, or a personal touch from the founder. This makes a difference.
Just remember, when running experiments with marketing channels, give each channel enough time to gather data before analyzing its effectiveness. I’d suggest giving each channel a reasonable time (two to four weeks) and cutting out any channels that don’t work after a reasonable amount of time rather than dragging them along for too long.
YC: What motivates you to keep going during challenging times?
Sameera: My drive to create a meaningful impact and curiosity are significant motivating factors. Continuous learning and self-improvement are personal mantras that I strongly believe in. My inbuilt drive, inspired by my hardworking mother, keeps me motivated.
Building a startup can be challenging, but having a great co-founder and seeing my customers benefit from our product brings me joy. Despite the ups and downs, I find the challenge and excitement of building a startup fulfilling.
Book Recommendation – While I don’t have any specific book recommendations, I enjoy reading good fiction. When I don’t have time to read or if I’m on the road, I switch to audiobooks. I believe that reading is essential.
John Grisham’s novels are among my favourites for their intensity. I enjoy reading entrepreneurship books like “The Lean Startup Book by Eric Ries“. However, fiction remains my preferred genre.
Sameera, it was a great conversation. Thank you for your time. Yellow Chapter wishes you the best in your future endeavours.